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How Ernie Grunfeld has balanced risk against the Ten Point Plan

For the old guard in Washington, the new season is win or die. Hence, the Marcin Gortat trade.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Fans of Washington basketball know none of Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker or Jan Vesely are legit starters in the NBA. The preseason drove this point home as only reality can. Beginning the regular season with any of them starting next to Nene meant the Wizards would be battling out of a hole when, and perhaps most importantly, if, Emeka Okafor returned from injury. A playoffs or bust edict from owner Ted Leonsis made starting behind the eight ball an unacceptable scenario.

How do you affect your team's trajectory in a hurry? You leverage your assets, and just like Mike said last week, that means trading from a position of weakness. That constitutes a considerable risk. I give you the sixth point of the Ten Point Plan.

6. Make sure the GM, coach, owner and business folks are on the EXACT same page as to deliverables, metrics of success, ultimate goal, process and measured outcomes. Always meet to discuss analytics and don't be afraid of the truth that the numbers reveal. Manage to outcomes. Manage to let the GM and coach NOT be afraid of taking risks, and make sure there are no surprises. Over communicate. Act like an ethnic family--battle around the dinner table--never in public. Be tight as a team. Protect and enhance each other. Let the right people do their jobs.

And so Ernie Grunfeld went scrounging. When scrounging, you can get what you need fast, in good condition or cheap. Pick two. Marcin Gortat fit.

There is no sure way to build a contender in the NBA. While the Ten Point Plan is built to be comprehensive, any good pirate will tell you they're more guidelines than actual rules. Thus, a first-round draft pick is not inviolate.

Still, a decent pick in the near-mythical 2014 draft is a heavy price to swap expiring contracts. To some, this is the deal they feared Grunfeld would make this season. The most cynical take I've heard? Given his drafting record, the pick was a sunk cost of retaining him this season.

Dealing away a significant pick isn't the only change as the franchise shifts gears. The team has been patient with their young players in accordance with the Ten Point Plan and that patience is at an end for the draft class of 2011. Cutting bait on Vesely and Singleton frees up some cap powder if the Wizards need it, but it doesn't necessarily mean goodbye. Factor in the Wizards taking on only a single season of Gortat, and they've protected optionality in accordance with the ninth point.

But that flexibility cuts both ways. Unreasonable contracts may be on the way out as the NBA's middle class expands, but nobody gets overpaid in the NBA like competent big men. Gortat will be looking for a big payday and won't think twice about trying to "overtake or get paid more than the young core" at the end of whatever rainbow the Wizards end up chasing this season. An extension akin to Andrew Bogut's incentive-laden 3 year, $36 million base deal will be in play.

If Gortat walks for nothing at the end of the season, the Wizards are out a first-round draft pick in an important year. What does the team gain in this very real scenario?

The Wizards are looking to raise their profile to the league's free agents and they will do it in the playoffs. There really isn't anywhere else to do it. You show every disgruntled star sitting at home in May what they could be a part of. You show the ones that aren't what you're made of.

No one wants to waste a year of John Wall's prime, and everyone is tired of losing. Al Harrington's decision to join the Wizards on a veteran minimum deal is the tip of the iceberg. To attract a star, Grunfeld has perhaps risked more than many fans can stomach. But if it gets the Wizards into the playoffs AND nets interest from significant free agent or trade prospect, Ernie Grunfeld may be armed to build the new Big 3 in D.C.

One shared metric, one commandment carries weight this season: just win, baby.

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